Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has dismissed fresh calls for an extension of the Brexit transition period amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Facing questions over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which refers to the post-Brexit arrangements for the Irish border, Mr Lewis said it was in everyone’s interest to move forward as planned.
SNP MP Kirsten Oswald branded the government’s timetable “reckless”, adding: “The resulting cliff edge will be a step too far for many Northern Irish businesses”.
She said: “With Covid-19 consuming so much effort internationally, does the Secretary of State not agree that the EU simply won’t indulge further UK government brinkmanship on transition?”
Mr Lewis replied: (There’s) a very clear position for the British public, we stated in just December last year, to see things done so that we as a country can move forward.
“It’s in both our interest and the EU’s interest to be ready to move forward in January 2021 and the best certainty I think we can give business…is that unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses with the rest of the UK and we will do that through the Northern Ireland protocol.”
Though the UK formally left the European Union on January 31, it will remain aligned with the bloc until the end of 2020 in a transition period while details are ironed out.
It can request an extension to this period, but the deadline for doing so next month.
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